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Making use of police crash reports in personal injury litigation

Previously, we began looking at a recent National Safety Council report on the deficiencies in gathering of crash data during law enforcement investigations. As we noted, the report made several recommendations for states to improve their investigation procedures. These include taking an investigatory approach to data gathering, updating forms more frequently to ensure emerging crash factors are recorded, gathering information recorded electronically, and using electronic crash reporting.

For accident victims, police motor vehicle accident reports can be a valuable resource in building a strong personal injury case. Although police reports themselves are usually considered inadmissible “hearsay,” they can help an accident victim to know what questions and requests to make in the discovery process, as well as what witnesses to call to the stand at trial and what questions to ask them.

Discovery is the phase of litigation in which the parties engage in fact-gathering under the supervision of the court. Discovery can be both formal and informal. Informal discovery is less costly, but formal discovery means the court can require parties to comply with discovery requests. Some of the tools of formal discovery involve interrogatories, document requests, depositions, and independent medical examinations. A skilled attorney knows how to make use of the tools of discovery to gather the information necessary to build the strongest possible case.

Another way motor vehicle accident reports can be useful to crash victims is that they can sometimes be used in negotiating a settlement, particularly in cases where the factors are favorable to the party seeking settlement. In any case, of course, working with an experienced attorney will give an accident victim a better opportunity to reach a favorable result in his or her case. 

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